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FEMS Microbiol Immunol. 1991 Dec;4(1):1-9.

Mucosal immunity and vaccination.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Göteborg, Sweden.


The gut mucosal immune system is a critical component of the body's defense against pathogenic organisms, especially those responsible for enteric infections associated with diarrhoeal disease. Attempts to vaccinate against infections of mucosal tissues have been less successful than vaccination against systemic infections, to a large extent reflecting a still incomplete knowledge about the most efficient means for inducing protective local immune responses at these sites. Secretory IgA (SIgA) is the predominating immunoglobulin along mucosal surfaces, and SIgA antibodies generated in gastrointestinal, respiratory or genito-urinary mucosal tissues can confer protection against infections affecting or originating in these sites. An efficacious intestinal SIgA immunity-inducing oral vaccine against cholera has been developed recently, and development of oral vaccines against other enteric infections such as those caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, Shigella and rotaviruses is in progress as well. Based on the concept of a common mucosal immune system through which activated lymphocytes from the gut can disseminate immunity to other mucosal and glandular tissues, there is currently also much interest in the possibility of developing oral vaccines against infections in the respiratory and urogenital tracts. However, the large and repeated antigen doses often required to achieve a protective immune response still makes this vaccination approach impractical for many purified antigens. There is, therefore, a great need to develop strategies for enhancing delivery of antigen to the mucosal immune system as well as to identify mucosa-active immunostimulating agents (adjuvants). These and other aspects of mucosal immunity in relation to immunization and vaccine development are discussed in this short review article.

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